Too few product options? Make your own

Got a hankering for the perfect cereal, say, oat flakes peppered with Brazil nuts and wild huckleberries - and can't find it among the 250-plus varieties already on grocery shelves? Keep an eye on General Mills. The company may soon allow consumers to customize cereals through its Web site, MyCereal.com, currently in a testing phase.

The company is just one example of a growing worldwide trend toward product customization, according to the New York-based Intelligence Factory (IF), an arm of Young & Rubicam, the global advertising giant. As new technologies have made it easier for companies to target individuals, IF says, consumers have grown accustomed to being offered solutions to very specific needs.

Another firm providing such a service: Procter & Gamble, which sells custom blends of its Millstone gourmet coffee through a new Web site, PersonalBlends.com. Consumers are asked questions about their tastes, and the answers help determine which of 50 varieties of beans make it into the mix. The cost: about 20 percent higher than that of specialty blends sold in supermarkets. P&G also sells cosmetics tailored to customers' physical characteristics on its Reflect.com site, launched in September 1999.

Watch this section for a broader look at a boom area in customization: clothing.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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